Gloom of Kilforth: 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lord of the Rings - Nightmare Expansion Card Previews

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - Nightmare Expansion Card Previews.

Hey guys,

Here's a cool treat for all my blog followers - FFG have kindly permitted me to release the following two card previews for you from the forthcoming Nightmare Expansion...

Abandoned Camp, a pretty horrific new Land card:



And the soul-sapping Pursuit On The Shore, an uncancellable (definitely a word) Treachery which our group has learned to respect and dread in equal measure:




Enjoy!  :)

And for more details and gameplay breakdown check out my exclusive preview here:

http://ratdorg.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/lord-of-rings-card-game-nightmare.html


ND

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - Nightmare Expansion

More info on FFG's site here:

http://fantasyflightgames.com/edge_news.asp?eidn=3792


UPDATE: and for some exlusive card previews, check out my blog link here:

http://ratdorg.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/lord-of-rings-nightmare-expansion-card.html


   


FFG recently very kindly blessed us with the opportunity to try the forthcoming Lord of the Rings Nightmare scenarios.  These are the scenarios from the original Lord of the Rings: The Living Card Game core set, but with a difference.  Designer Nate French gave an analogy of them being ‘like an old friend’ – and this analysis was bang on the money!  Everything was familiar but very different.

I mean, when was the last time you heard any veteran LOTR player say this: "We got our arses stomped by Passage Through Mirkwood"??  Well, that's what happened to us!  The LOTR Nightmare scenarios breathe new life into the original three scenarios by introducing new cards and mechanics which will test inveterate players’ toughest decks to their limits.  The following is a session report/review based on the new Nightmare experience...

We took in our ‘Dwarf synergy’ decks led by Dain Ironfoot from many victories over Khazad Dum and got thoroughly pummelled in the first four turns of meandering the Passage Through Mirkwood.  The new shadow effects are seriously nasty.  We also had collective heart attacks when the new Glade of the Spawn location turned up and repeatedly entangled our heroes in its endless webs!  We eventually carefully negotiated our way through it only to discover an Abandoned Camp.  I'm loving the agonising choices posed by cards like this - it's a really interesting mechanic to be able to redistribute or mitigate danger using a card’s text, and without spoiling anything this is a Location that you’ll actually think about just leaving in the Staging Area instead of exploring.

We quested like crazy to get to stage 3, which is still pretty easy given that stage 2 of PTM has only 2 quest points. But then we pulled the brand new and revamped horrific Ungoliant's Spawn and its friends, and we had to kill it to win. With my bloodied and pissed off Gimli we came really close to beating it down but a shadow effect wiped me out of the game completely and after that it was just carnage.  A loss at Passage Through Mirkwood after all this time?  Noooooo!  A pride bonfire was had by all…..

Recovering from our shock, we reloaded our decks and added some much needed Treachery cancelling cards then set off once more. This time we concentrated purely on questing and raced through to the end. Pulling the Beorn's Path which requires 10 quest points we prayed that Ungoliant's Spawn would not turn up. As spiders raced at us and clawed all our characters down to their last few hit points we smashed through the woods and won the game before Ungoliant’s new Spawn could turn up and rear its ugly-ass head.  What a relief that we were able to reclaim some dignity at last!

Which brought us to the Anduin Journey.  Given how tricky the Mirkwood Passage had been we were very dubious about our chances of survival.  We even drew a Marsh Adder straight away to keep the Hill Troll company.  Great start.  Building up our forces on stage 1 we quested carefully and fought valiantly against the marauding troll and his numerous new Troll Spawn friends.  These guys are nasty!  At one point we became dangerously overwhelmed by locations but managed to pull back from the brink by using a timely horsey Spirit ally to explore the Brown Lands in the staging area.
Our journey then led us into the Gladden Marshlands, a jaw dropping new Location that has 10 Threat and 10 Quest points! Luckily we negotiated it down to 0 Threat by distributing a massive 10 damage amongst our heroes – yet another new agonising decision to manage and mitigate Threat from the new Locations.

Not being able to snare trolls is a new rule for the Nightmare Anduin Journey scenario, and this makes it very difficult indeed - so we snared the Marsh Adder instead and killed it.  Then I braved the hill troll, sacrificed a chump and took the troll's threat hit to set an angry Gimli on it.  As Gimli and his Battle Master ally brought down the hill troll we all rejoiced and prepared for stage 2.  Only to draw Pursuit On The Shore – a new treachery which brings the highest health enemy in the victory display back into play!  As the hill troll came back down into play I braved fighting it again, sacrificing yet another ally and taking another threat hit to allow a powered up Gimli and his pals to eventually bring it down once again.

We hit Stage 2 running and quested as fast as we could.  Some pesky wargs kept jumping at us and then jumping back into the staging area because they weren't getting shadow effects dealt to them. Take note that we had no Gandalf because of our decks’ setup and we were relying on other strong cards instead (Steward, Unexpected Courage, etc.) so we had no way to get rid of the wargs from the staging area either.

Despite this we ploughed through stage 2 and landed on the shore and drew our 2 encounter cards per player.  Enemy after enemy after enemy turned up and we groaned with disappointment at the sheer amount of surging baddies.  The staging area was full and we had to move all our player cards to fit all the incoming enemies and locations on the table and make room!  Luckily there would be no more staging, but it almost looked like too much to deal with.

As the battle began we tried to keep our allies alive for as long as possible and the Song of Durin which gives dwarves +1 HP was absolutely crucial to our survival.  We were swamped by the new Brown Water Rats – an enemy you will love to hate!  They are so irritating because you can't kill them but you still have to defend against them or let them through whilst you concentrate on other enemies.  And whenever the wargs were dealt effective shadow cards we focussed on them over more powerful enemies just to clear them out for good.

Soon we were almost swapping allies for enemies as the battle progressed and after a couple of turns of token attempts at questing to keep our threats managed whilst fighting desperately, we managed to clear down the staging area and our brutalised heroes overcame the last shadows of resistance.  After which the horrible rats fled.   A victory then, but a costly and close one!

And finally onto the all new Escape From Dol Guldur.  We were pretty nihilistic at this point, given how Nightmarish the Nightmare scenarios had been so far.  And sure enough we died in just four turns.  I had the prisoner, I lost another hero on the second turn from a forced-undefended attack, and then whilst questing with Thalin his damage effect killed the new Crazed Captive when he was revealed from the encounter deck, meaning our threat levels shot up by 7 – this is no enemy after all, just some poor crazy man.  And if you make the mistake of running him through, then be it on your conscience, for soon you will be doing the dirty work of the Dark Lord himself.  As it turned out it wasn't long before the big enemies turned up and wiped the floor with us.

Tired but determined, and thoroughly addicted, we gave EfDG one final shot and powered through as quickly as we could.  We built up our forces, negotiated carefully over who got to bring in the one single ally each turn, played attachments across the table on each other more often to evoke the best possible strategies, and slowly but surely accrued all our objective cards.  When we finally freed the prisoner the Nazgul swooped.  We Feinted him twice and set a battered Gimli on him to defeat him as quickly as we could.

In claiming the objectives our threat was rocketing up and with Thalin's continued insistence on killing more Crazed Captives and boosting our Threat further each time, we came to within one turn of dying from Threat overload.  But we were able to quest our way out of the caverns and past all the awaiting orcs and spiders to freedom and victory.  It was a long, hard fought battle but well worth it.

Overall impressions: overwhelmingly positive!  These reversions are great fun and I wouldn’t change anything, the new cards work beautifully, some are horrific, the new Ungolian’ts Spawn as a shadow effect can be a game killer and you need to prepare yourself accordingly, but that's what a Nightmare mode should be all about.

Great job to all who worked on these scenarios, it was great to be a part of it all. :) 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NinjaDorg's Star Wars: The Card Game Review


I was definitely one of those looking forward to a cooperative Star Wars game, especially after how successfully Fantasy Flight handled The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.  Early reports on the game play of the cooperative Star Wars card game were positive too and I was eager to see how it played out.  My group will play competitive games no hassle, but it’s great to have the option to play cooperative games with less gamer-y friends and family and maybe to have a solo option for when the family is tucked up in bed.  So when I found out it was no longer a coop game I was initially disappointed.  But the only previous Star Wars board games I played were Star Wars Monotony and Star Warriors (which I just recently e-Bayed), and the notion of playing a cool, up to date, and still supported game in the Star Wars universe was very appealing.

After reading the rules the game seemed fairly dense, but clean and concise, although it took me a while to process all the obligatory new terminology.  My initial worries:


1. Familiar Objectives – the objectives looked very much like the stories in the Call of Cthulhu LCG, and the rules overall lent a heavy sense of the Game of Thrones LCG.
2. Edge Battles – they seemed overly long and complex for what they are, i.e. giving one side the Edge in the forthcoming battle.  I also wasn’t excited about potentially playing an entire hand of cards to resolve the Edge before one single battle.
3. Focussing – I was dubious about how adding focus tokens to represent exhausting cards would work out when tapping/exhausting seems so much easier.
4. Theme – yes, I know Darth Vader is going to have kick ass stats compared to regular Trooper, but will the overall feel of the game give a sense of the Star Wars universe?


Sam and I geared up for a two player war and the decks were Light Side (LS): Jedi – myself - and Dark Side (DS): Dark Jedi – Sam - so we shuffled up and set to it.  The first couple of turns took an age as we tried to process all the new mechanics and asked a bunch of ‘what if?’ questions and rules look ups that wouldn’t necessarily affect our immediate game, but that we wanted straight in our heads.  Deciding to ‘trust our feelings’ we just played on and let the game emerge by itself through the card play, agreeing that we wouldn’t put too much truck in who won or lost because this was our first ‘test’ game.

Boy, did that feeling soon go!  As the Jedi I was up against it from the get go – the general feeling is that the good guys are up against it.  The ticking counter of the Death Star dial suggests that the Dark Side (DS) will inevitably win in - at most - 12 turns (potentially less if they play well) and that the Light Side has to play all out and pull no punches just to survive.  The Jedi desperately need to destroy 3 DS Objectives.  Sam quickly tapped out his resources and brought in some basic troops, then applied Dark Jedi units to commit to the Force and as I played down a couple of lesser Jedi I foolishly considered that I didn’t have the resources to do the same, so I let the Balance of the Force slip inexorably towards the Dark Side, meaning the Death Star dial advanced twice every turn.  I never managed to reclaim the Balance of the Force, which meant I would only have 6 turns to win...

I straight away concentrated my Jedi forces on attacking the Dark Side Objectives.


I love the Objectives!

These are really thematic story implementations of the power of each side of the Force, so you can strike at for example the Council of the Sith or Cruel Interrogations Objectives and you’ll need to inflict 5 damage to defeat one.  And as long as each of these are in play you get a cool bonus effect, e.g. card draw, or certain cards cost less to play, or the Cruel Interrogations Objective for example immediately captures one of the Light Side player’s cards (from hand) and must be destroyed for said captive to be released.

So you can prioritise the Objectives based on their difficulty and game effect, adding a deeper ongoing strategy level in how you approach your enemy.  Whilst the DS player can sit back and build his armies and ships it also behoves him to attack the LS objectives too, which helps advance the Death Star dial even faster and forces the LS player to consider defending his own play area instead of constantly going on the attack, thus delaying the game and leading ever close to that inevitable Dark Side victory.  Sam’s Dark Jedi didn’t hold back in this regard and as I focussed all my units on the offensive he plucked some low hanging fruit by sending in fighters in to destroy my home bases on Tatooine and other noteworthy Star Wars locations.

As my two Unopposed Twi’lek Loyalist Jedi attacked at the heart of the Empire in Coruscant Sam played some vicious response Events such as Intimidating Presence and Force Choke to cripple one Jedi with Focus tokens (so THIS is why you don’t exhaust/tap cards – you can be a lot more exhausted in this way) and damage the other.  But the damage had already been done and one of the DS objectives was nearly destroyed.  Quickly realising how deadly unopposed attacks could be Sam pulled his forces back from the offensive and even those who were committed to the Dark Side of the Force came to defend the Empire.

To step up the attack I brought in more resource generating cards and more powerful units such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and re-launched my attacks.  This time Sam was ready and sent his units to defend, thus instigating our first Edge Battle...


I love Edge Battles!

Getting the Edge is crucial in unlocking the much needed extra character icons you benefit from in the ensuing battle.  The fact that you draw back to 6 cards at the start of your turn means you can afford to throw in more of the cards that you feel you need to in order to win, but you also have to be prepared for up to three potential edge battles during each player's turn.  Poker-faced, we played our cards face down in stacks and I visibly winced as Sam kept adding cards to his stack against my own measly one card Edge Stack.  Eventually he also passed and we revealed our Edge Stacks to compare our total number of Force icons.  But my one card played was a Twist of Fate, a nasty little Fate card cancelling all of his mega Force cards and starting a brand new Edge Battle instead!  This time I played some big Force cards into the stack and won the Edge.  Obi Wan attacked and destroyed the first DS objective and a cheer went up throughout the galaxy.

But had it been in vain?  Emperor Palpatine cast down his Force Lightning event on an exhausted Ben Kenobi and annihilated him utterly.  And then the Empire struck back against my undefended objectives and destroyed one for themselves.  The Death Star dial advanced yet again and I wondered at leaving my bases so badly unprotected.

At which point Luke’s own Red Five X-Wing Fighter swooped in to save the day.  Delivering a huge payload of damage to my next DS Objective after another hard fought Edge Battle I managed to take down another DS Objective, but at cost.  The Emperor countered by showing up in person with his henchmen and attacking and destroying another of my own LS Objectives, advancing the Death Star dial twice this time, and in Spinal Tap fashion reaching all the way up to 11.  At the start of his next turn, Sam would win the game automatically.

It all came down to a certain Luke Skywalker and his fearless band of Freedom Fighters.  Before I could begin my final assault the Emperor played an event attack on one of my brave yet feeble units, the Believer in the Old Ways.  But Luke deflected the damage with his lightsaber and took out an evil Nightsister instead.  Then the assault began: as Emperor Palpatine confidently moved to intercept my encroaching forces I played an old and true Jedi Mind Trick and diverted him away.  The final imperial Objective was undefended!  As Skywalker and friends moved in the chances of victory were as slim as launching proton torpedoes into an exhaust vent to destroy an entire Death Star.  So, a dead cert then.  As the Council of the Sith exploded in a shower of sparks and flame the Jedi rejoiced in victory!

Interestingly we swapped roles for the next game and it came down to the absolute wire again, with Luke turning up for a last second attack on the third DS Objective.  I’d grown extremely cocky because due to a bad run of cards, Sam had been unable to play much of anything on the Jedi side.  Meanwhile I had lined up Vader, the Emperor, a Coruscant Defence Fleet and a bunch of Imperial Guards.

The Jedis attacked my Empire with the awesome Capital Ship Redemption and I was more focussed on being able to destroy the Redemption than in defending myself properly.  I sent everything at it and won the Edge just to watch the Redemption go down in flames.  Only to then have Luke sneak in the back and destroy the third and final Objective resulting in another close to the bone LS victory.

It was late but I was determined to see if I could steal a Dark Side win, so we played on again until well after midnight.  I also was very curious to see if the Heart of the Empire Dark Jedi Objective was as awesome as it appeared to be.  It generates 3 Resources per turn instead of the usual 1, and requires 10 damage to defeat instead it of the usual 5, but if you lose it you lose the game, so you have to defend it at all costs.

By now we’d both wised up to the Edge battling, and a rough idea of the overall tactics and strategic play, even down to the ’faking fear’ at big Edge stacks whilst knowing you’d played a cheeky Twist of Fate.  After a gruelling, protracted battle it came very close once more, with the Heart of the Empire almost in ruins and massive casualties on both teams, even to the point where we’d nearly played through our whole card decks from aggressive Edge Battling (you lose if you run out of cards).

This time Luke Skywalker had been destroyed by Force Lightning and Ben Kenobi and his allies were struggling to make the final push to their objectives.  As Vader fired up his very own personal Light Saber and dedicated himself to the Force, the Balance of the Force tipped towards the Dark Side and with a roar of inevitability the Death Star came online.  It’s opening salvo was the destruction of Tatooine, and the rest of the galaxy would follow...

The thematic implementation is simply brilliant.  Desperately sending a band of freedom fighters up against the Empire’s most elite units in the vain hope that you can twist fate to your advantage and somehow get the Edge against your enemy to bring balance to the Force?  Sign me the hell up.  The heroes and villains feel exactly as heroic and villainous as you expect them too, and there are other great surprises in the decks too, with brilliant references to and quotes from the movies.  It was after 1am and I still wanted another shot at the game afterwards.  I absolutely cannot wait to see how the Empire Vs Rebel decks play out too, and every permutation thereof, that’s before we even get to the Smugglers, Spies and Bounty Hunters.  There are even fricking Scout Walkers in there for goodness’ sake.  It’s been nearly thirty years since the foot ‘fell off’ my own Scout Walker toy and this is potentially the happiest I’ve felt in the Star Wars universe since before then.  So glad they chose the original setting for this game too, although I honestly would not be opposed to a Trade Vs Republic version too.


Other notes:

1. C3P0 sucks – exactly like he does in the movies!  His effect is largely a joke, but one of our stand out moments was when Sam – bravely going against our usual tactic of sacrificing him for edge battles or event cancellation – committed Threepio to the Force, making him all that stood in the way of Darth Vader and galactic domination!  I destroyed him with a Force attack in the next turn, but it was a valiant stance from the erstwhile super-camp, useless golden butler.
2. R2D2 rocks - exactly like he does in the movies!  Not the flying Superman version from the prequels, the nippy, resourceful little tub of nuts and bolts from the originals.  1 resource per turn might not be much but it adds up and makes him a genuinely great little card.
3. In a desperate Edge Battle a Jedi Believer in the Old Ways ran up to the Emperor and wounded him with a Light Saber before being mowed down by overwhelming forces.  It had a small effect on the long term game but was a great cinematic moment which had us both invested quite heavily in the fate of one brave little unit.
4. The artwork is once again utterly fantastic, and at least on a par with The Lord of the Rings LCG.  This is the best route FFG could have gone imho, with art versions of these awesome iconic characters and moments along with great new interesting characters, ships and events from the 'Expanded Universe' too.


How does it compare to LOTR: LCG?

Well, these two games could easily sit comfortably next to each other as they both fulfil very different purposes.  SW is currently a 2 player versus game, but there is easily scope for multiplayer battles, and even potentially a cooperative translation too, though that may require much more of an overhaul.

Currently I could not be happier with this game, and cannot wait for the next opportunity to play it!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Designer Eric Lang on STAR WARS: The Card Game


Original link:

Recently, we started our series of previews for Star Wars: The Card Game™ with a look at the game’s unique model of deck-building. Today, as we wait for the opportunity to control the Star Wars universe’s most legendary heroes, villains, and starships, designer Eric Lang kicks off our series of previews with a look at how the game was built to capture the magic of the movies!
Eric Lang on “The Cinematic Experience”
The first “real” movie I saw in the theater as a kid was Return of the Jedi. It blew my mind and forever changed my impressionable young view of just what a movie could offer. I remember the first time I saw the assault on the Death Star and Luke’s epic showdown with you-know-who. The line, “Go on, strike me down!” gave me my first serious movie chills. Call it cliché, but those scenes changed my life. I came out of that theater reborn as a bona fide geek!
Watching the classic Star Wars movies again as an adult brings me back to that place of youthful awe. They transport me back to that transformative moment, and I’m again overwhelmed by their relentlessly awesome scope. Everything is larger than life, everything is epic. Most importantly, they explain only enough to excite our imagination, where even in the moment, we are freed to dream about the universe beyond the scene. It’s magic. Such moments make us feel.
I’ve known for years what I wanted to do with a Star Wars card game. I wanted the game, like the movies, to transport me to that primal place, to rekindle the spirit of those scenes, and to give me the tools to dream beyond the moment.
I wanted to make a game that was quick and action-packed, but where every tiny interaction held the promise of greater scope, even if you didn’t see it at the time. I wanted my Star Wars to be a game that captured you in the moment and made you think. More importantly, it needed to make you feel.
Cutting to the Action
Living Card Games® (LCGs), in play, do one very interesting thing very well: they simplify complex ideas into visceral, flavorful interactions. In Star Wars: The Card Game, I call these interactions “movie moments,” and I wanted the game to focus entirely on delivering them turn after turn.
I dubbed this vision “cinematic design.” Every facet of the game stems from this idea – from the new style of deck-building to the quickness and open-endedness of battle, card interactions aimed at capturing spirit over direct simulation, and the game’s dramatic, bluff-tastic edge battles.
My first goal was to whiteboard a series of “movie moments” I wanted to see find shape in the game. Having played (and designed) several games based on licenses I love, I saw this as an obvious first step. Since this was a card game, I knew early on that I wanted to get to those moments right away and not worry about anything else. In a way, this game could play out like a hundred different trailers for your own Star Wars experiences.
The scope of the LCG brings these moments into stark relief: on turn one, you’ve already dived in and played through at least one scene. And the pressure is on as the game progresses – if the light side doesn’t mount an offensive, the dark side automatically wins. But the game favors the aggressor overall, so the dark side player can’t just defend and win. He has to take advantage of every opportunity, figure out what is important to the light side player’s strategy for that game, and Force choke him out of existence.
Cinematic gameplay focuses on the big picture, the excitement and the stakes. Whatever gets in the way of this focus is trimmed or cut, leaving us a lean, mean, action-packed game!
Building the Set
What really excited me about designing Star Wars for the LCG format was that I got to try a wholly new approach that could only shine with this awesome platform FFG had developed. One of our big innovations in this game is its approach to deck-building itself. We kept the quality of decisions, heightened the stakes between the choices, and trimmed the rest.
As you saw in Nate French’s previewStar Wars: The Card Game allows you to customize your own decks between games, but it takes a different approach. Choose at least ten different objectives, each linked to a set of five more specific cards, and your deck is built! Simple to explain, simple to dive in and experiment. But just as with many classic games, once you dive into the decision-making process of set-building, the depth quickly becomes apparent.
Set-building has several advantages, but two of them outshine the rest. The first advantage, which I’ve dubbed “Trust Your Feelings,” is that it simplifies deck-building both in the critical early stages when you start playing, and at any point in the future when you return to the game after a break.
Equally exciting is that Star Wars: The Card Game offers a completely new way for experienced players – Jedi Masters, if you will – to look at building their decks. The overall number of decisions they face is fewer, but the stakes of those decisions are very high. Nate did a great job of summarizing this earlier. You have to adjust your thinking and see how the Force binds all things. The value of a card lies not only within its own stats and abilities, but in those of the surrounding cards in the same objective set.
In design and development, we put a lot of thought into how the objective sets are built. Objective sets are organic entities, and they’re designed as a whole. This means they don’t just open new avenues for players; they create new possibilities for game design. In fact, one of my design mandates for future sets is “design sets; the cards will follow."
Edging Closer to Victory
Another innovation built into the game is the edge battle. Conflict is at the heart of Star Wars: The Card Game, and since players will be in engaging in many different conflicts over the course of play, I wanted to make sure there would be a high amount of variance. Additionally, I wanted to make sure the game offered a hefty dose of uncertainty in conflict, as this captures the spirit of the classic Star Wars movies.
Edge battles are blind bids for initiative that capture those moments when forces maneuver into position or circle about each other in tense lightsaber duels. Each card in the game has a number of Force icons, and the player who bids the most Force icons wins the edge, the initiative, and the chance to strike first in the ongoing combat. But once the initiative has been decided, all cards used to bid are discarded, and this increases the tension of each edge battle.
Winning the edge is a crucial component to winning the game because it not only gives you that important first strike in an opposed conflict, it unlocks the true potential of many cards in the game. But you don’t have to win the edge all the time. You can’t win it all the time. You have to manage which cards you are going to keep back to try and win the crucial edge battles.
Additionally, the Force icons that would help win you edge battles are also useful on units in play, as they can contribute toward tipping the balance of the Force in your favor. This is another important element of the game to manage, and you’ll have to decide from deck to deck, game to game, and round to round, which victories are more important to you…because you certainly can’t win them all.
The decisions you face in edge battles mean your choices each turn are a bit less about how to squeeze the most out of your resources and more about how you manage the use of your cards overall. More importantly, they may lead you to manage a few cards over the course of multiple turns, sculpting your hand for a perfect alpha strike when you need it. Of course, doing that denies you the ability to play those cards…oh, the dilemma!
You’ll get more thoughts about design in future articles. In the meantime, I hope Star Wars: The Card Game unlocks as many movie moments and moments of joy for you as it does for me!
    –Eric Lang, Designer Star Wars: The Card Game
Thanks, Eric!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

NinjaDorg's Dungeon Command Review


NinjaDorg's Dungeon Command Review



Prelude:

Wizards of the Coast cash in on their Dungeons and Dragons miniatures product line by producing this compartmentalised collectible board game series, the first two sets in this series are: Sting of Lolth (a Drow Elf themed Underdark set) and Heart of Cormyr (a bog standard Forgotten Realms D&D Heroes set), which this review concerns.  Each box gives a player enough components to play half of a game of Dungeon Command, and whilst there are rules for breaking the game down into quarters and playing a slim line version of the rule set using only one box, the game is best served when two players have access to and battle using one box set each.

Every box also contains monster cards for the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System games which allows you to use the included miniatures in Legend of Drizzt, Castle Ravenloft and/or Wrath of Ashardalon.  Also the Dungeon Command tiles are jigsaw fit compatible with the D&D Adventure System game tiles, and whilst there are no specific rules supplied to use these in your ‘AS’ games if you have any vested interest in those games, the cross compatibility possibilities between both sets of games are indeed very tantalising.

Biases - I love the D&D Adventure System games!  They are great little dungeon crawlers with cool components which are easy to set up and play and deliver great cooperative play.  The fact that Dungeon Command’s components work in tandem with the AS games was the driving force behind my interest in Dungeon Command.






What is it?

Dungeon Command is a straight up miniatures battle game.  There is no particular driving narrative or theme, no asymmetrical victory objectives, just straight up war.  Each player chooses a leader character for his misfit war band who provides certain in game benefits and bonuses and determines the starting key characteristics which will win or lose the game: Leadership and Morale.

A player’s Leadership increases by one each turn and represents the total number of levels’ worth of figures he can have in play, e.g. Leadership 6 means a player could have 3 x Level 2 minis, 6 x Level 1 minis, etc, or any combination thereof. 

The object of the game is to reduce your opponent’s Morale to 0 by destroying his creatures.  Each time a creature is destroyed, its owner loses Morale equal to its level.







How does it play?

A diceless cross over between Magic the Gathering and any standard miniatures battle game with a stripped down rule set that allows fast and clean play.  There are deeper strategies to be pursued over time through devious card play and careful positioning and defence, but on the surface the game is very easy to just pick up and play and get into in a short amount of time.
Each player deploys troops into his sort of ’end zone’ and then takes turns to activate all of his creatures one by one.  At the end of each of his turns a player can then deploy more reinforcements if his Leadership allows.
Activating a creature allows you to move up to its speed and then perform an action, which is usually an attack, but which can be boosted or altered using Order Cards.
There are simple and easy to grasp line of sight and movement rules, and built in terrain on the tiles (some dangerous, some just blocking) which can hinder vision and movement, all of which deepen the strategic placement and advancement of your miniatures.
Each player starts with a hand of special Order Cards and gains another one every turn, which allow him to play sneak attacks, special moves, spells and various other cool effects that will help his war band or hinder or attack his enemies.  After you finish a turn you untap all your ‘used’ creatures and may use them again during your opponent’s turn to try and defend themselves with defensive Order cards you might have, or you can also tap them to take advantage of terrain cover shown on the tiles to try to block attacks.
Some of the order cards are very cool and some even quite thematic for a Forgotten Realms-set war band battle.  One card in particular comes to mind: “Behind Enemy Lines” – the Heart of Cormyr player can play this to put a hero into play in his opponent’s play area.  He must then race this hero back to his own ‘end zone’ and if he is successful he can boost his Morale by 4 points.  The chances are that his enemies will hunt this hero down and exact bloody revenge before this is all possible but the morale boost reward can be awesome if timed correctly!  There are many other cards with similar game changing effects and abilities.
There are Treasure Chests strewn about the map which act as a great potential distraction for players.  If you detour to go and grab them you can boost the morale of your warband, but you need to balance this with actively making attempts to defeat your enemies.  Going out of your way to collect Chests whilst neglecting your opponent can prove disastrous.
Every creature has its own attack set and some even have their own cool special abilities such as different types of movement like flying over or burrowing under tricky terrain.  Some units can heal or summon other units.
And every unit has the fun ability to Cower!  If one of your dudes is about to take fatal damage you can have him Cower and take the damage to your warband’s overall Morale instead.  Whilst this can occasionally be useful for keeping a crucial unit in play, more often than not it can prove a false economy because if you let your unit go, it allows you to bring in more, bigger units instead on your next turn.  This provides a nice, tricky balancing act.

 





What are the bits like?

Some good:

Each set comes with 12 pre-painted D&D minis which are mostly reprints from the old line of the Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures games, 2 big 8x8 jigsaw fit tiles and 2 little 8x4 end tiles, a bunch of little tokens representing Hit Points for the figures, and some tokens to differentiate between duplicate minis.
The tile art is fantastic, some of the best in fact – by the very talented Jason Engle, and the tiles are double sided to allow for indoor dungeon and outdoor grassland arenas.  But you only get four tiles in each set, which means you’ll play through the variability of these setups in short order.
Full colour art on all the cards!  WOTC dropped the ball with this big time on the D&D AS games, and up until those games released it kind of became the standard to get decent looking cards in fantasy adventure board games.  With expectations duly lowered with monochrome decks and single colour hero cards it was nice to see them step it back up for Dungeon Command (and Lords of Waterdeep).  Some of the art is really nice, some not as good, but on the whole pretty impressive stuff, and nicely thematic for the D&D setting.
The minis are pretty good quality with wildly varying quality paint jobs.  From a non-painter’s point of view it has to be said that some paint jobs are pretty shocking in fact.  One wonders how much WOTC would have saved had they simply included unpainted models, without seriously impacting the overall quality of the product.
And there are no dice – but this is D&D heresy!  I actually think this is a really good thing.  Having the characters deal out a set amount of damage with each attack allows the designers room to develop boosts for these attacks through play of order cards and by making attacks Sneaky or Poisonous or whatever.  So yes, a dice-less D&D combat board game – but it works.







Some not so good:

The rulebook is coarse but paper thin and feels like a homemade print out more than an official glossy manual – a big step down from the Adventure System games.  As is the game box itself, which is made from flimsy card which does not feel like it will last the test of time at all.
Hit Points and damage, etc are in tens instead of units.  This adds an extra layer of maths (well, an extra zero anyway) to the proceedings, but is supposedly designed to make you feel like characters have lots of health and are inflicting tons of damage.  It’s unnecessary, but hardly game breaking.
The plastic insert housing the minis takes up most of the box and was the first thing to go.  Whilst it serves a purpose in preserving the minis from damage players should take extra care to prise the minis from their homes as the various bending appendages or pointy swords and weapons can undergo undue stress if one is not careful.
And there are no....  umm....  dice - D&D heresy for sure! 


How does it compare to the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System games?

The comparison isn’t really fair because the AS games are cooperative dungeon exploration games, but if you imagine them more abstractly as a sort of minis skirmish game where one side is the players’ heroes and the other side is the game’s AI monsters, you’d actually get a fairly close approximation.  Mainly because the order cards in Dungeon Command add so much variance to the proceedings.  Whereas in the AS games you could draw traps and encounters and use hero powers to attack, in Dungeon Command you’ll actively be playing these cards from your hand against your opponent instead.

As it is, the games stand side by side nicely – one for a cooperative dungeon crawl fix and one as a competitive tactical skirmish game.  The cards supplied in Dungeon Command to allow you to use your figures in the AS games are a really nice touch, and it wouldn’t be difficult to convert other D&D minis into the existing Dungeon Command system.  In fact, many fans are already doing this as we speak.


Is it any good?

Yes.

There’s a deceptive amount things happening at once in this game, and it feels like there is always something to be doing, even during your opponent’s turn.  Because of the nature of the card play, you can play some effects during your opponent’s attacks, deflecting blows or escaping from attack, or Cowering.  The upshot of this is that the downtime feels very minimal once you both have a handle on the game, although some decisions can be appropriately agonising.

Considering that this was purchased primarily as in expansion addition to the cooperative D&D board games it has been an absolutely pleasant surprise to find a wholly playable and intensive skirmish battle game in Dungeon Command.


Summary

Whether or not you have a vested interest in the D&D franchise Dungeon Command makes for a great, light skirmish game, with deeper tactics emerging through devious card play and positioning, and which can be played in under an hour with a little experience under your belt.  With a ton of new expansion material in the works too, there should be a wealth of further replayability and variability beyond what is already in the box.

If you can find a decent deal on the first two sets and you’re looking for a lighter fantasy skirmish game, jump on in.

Pros:

•           Fun, tense game!
•           Beautiful tile art with varying terrain effects
•           Interesting order cards with colour art and cool, thematic in-game effects
•           12 cool minis with varying quality paint jobs
•           Lots of replayability in the Order card decks, less so in the creatures available (unless you buy more boxed sets...)
•           Fast paced – actions are resolved quickly and easily with no dice rolls!
•           Simple, easy to learn rules
•           Tons of expansion material in the works (this could be a Con if you’re a completist)
•           No dice!



Cons:

•           Price – make sure you get a deal, as this can be over-priced for what it is (your country’s price may vary)
•           Space-consuming plastic insert – be careful popping out your minis!
•           Crappy paper rulebook
•           Crappy paper box
•           No dice!  (just kidding – this is a big bonus in this game)





Tristan Hall is a board game player and designer, avid video gamer and movie lover who juggles life as a writer, producer and Dad with his insatiable appetite to crowbar playtime into an otherwise prematurely grown up existence.

Forum username: ninjadorg

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Final Fantasy Quest Tease


Hello Questers,

I can't be too specific as things are still being ironed out but I wanted to update all those of you who are still following my game.  As a gamer I know how impatient people can become for news and as a designer I'm really excited to share something with you, but for now all I can tell you is this: Fantasy Quest is now in the hands of a very cool publisher and we will hopefully have some more details for you soon.  So these are the first baby steps towards delivering to you the best Fantasy Quest game yet.  :cool:

Cheers, and thanks for your continuing patience!


ND

NinjaDorg's Mass Effect 3 Review



I recently had the opportunity to review this awesome game for wargamer.com - you can check out the article here if you're interested:

http://www.wargamer.com/article/3262/playstation-3-game-review-mass-effect-3

I'd re-post it in full here but they require exclusivity.

Monday, October 08, 2012

NinjaDorg's Castle Ravenloft events cards in French

Just like the title says - big thanks to Nicolas Debord for the translations and hard work!



























Friday, September 14, 2012

'Mage Knight Board Game' Expansion



From icv2:


http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/23889.html


'Mage Knight Board Game' Expansion

'The Lost Legion'

Published: 09/13/2012 05:41pm
WizKids Games will release the first expansion for its Mage Knight Board Game in December.  Mage Knight Board Game: The Lost Legion Expansion will be designed by Vlaada Chvatil, who also designed the base game (along with Galaxy Truckers, Dungeon Pets, and other games). 
It will introduce a new Mage Knight, Wolfhawk; and a new foe, General Volkare.  Included in the set will be new location tiles, enemy/ruin tokens, Unit cards, Advanced Action cards, Artifact cards, Spell cards, and a reulbook expansion with new game scenarios and rules for play for five players. 
The revival of Mage Knight was announced almost two years ago (see "'Mage Knight' Is Back"), but the board game, the first product based on the property, was not released until Q4 of 2011, when it hit #4 on ICv2’s Top 10 Board Game chart (see "Top 10 Board Games—Q4 2011").

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Announcing the Upcoming Release of STAR WARS (TM): The Card Game


From FFG here:


The Imperial fleet sifts through the galaxy for signs of the Rebel Alliance’s hidden base, hoping to obliterate it with one powerful blast from their newly constructed Death Star. As the Empire’s imposing Star Destroyers draw near, the Rebellion’s greatest heroes realize there is no time to spare, so they mobilize for a desperate attack…
Star Wars: The Card Game is coming! Scheduled to release in the fourth quarter of 2012, Star Wars: The Card Game is a head-to-head Living Card Game® of tactical combat and strategic planning that allows two players to wage cinematic battles between the most memorable characters and starships from both the light and dark sides of the Force.
In February, we explained why we chose to take our initial prototype back to the drawing board. Now we are proud to announce that the redesign by Eric M. Lang is complete, and we intend to make Star Wars: The Card Game available to retailers everywhere later this year!
Luminous Beings
For decades, the Star Wars universe has entertained millions of fans with its daring heroes and imposing villains. Now, Star Wars: The Card Game grants players command of some of the galaxy’s most memorable characters. Wage epic duels between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, send Han Solo and Rebel troopers to engage Imperial forces on Endor’s forest moon, or launch a fleet of Star Destroyers from the Kuat ship yards. Of course, stormtroopers, smugglers, starfighters, and bounty hunters all make appearances, along with other Jedi and Sith.
Star Wars: The Card Game allows you to recreate the drama and excitement of many of the movies’ greatest scenes, and it allows you to invent your own moments of magic, as well. Obi-Wan can sneak through the Death Star while Luke, Leia, and Han fight off stormtroopers, or you can unleash Darth Vader on an unsuspecting Rebel base. Lure the Imperial navy into the trap planned by Admiral Ackbar. Or capture Admiral Ackbar with the infamous bounty hunter, Boba Fett. When you command the game’s famous characters and starfighters, the possibilities for cinematic drama are as limitless as your imagination.
A Great Disturbance in the Force
In Star Wars: The Card Game, light side and dark side players duel for the fate of the galaxy. While the light side player races to make tactical strikes against dark side objectives, the dark side player works to reinforce his position of command.
Throughout the game, the dark side works to snuff out the last remnants of its opposition and secure total control of the galaxy. This is represented by advancing the game’s Death Star dial. The dark side advances the dial at the beginning of each of its turns and can accelerate its advancement by launching successful attacks against the light side. If the dial advances to “12,” the dark side wins. Given enough time, the dark side player will discover the last remnants of the light side’s resistance, and wipe them out of the galaxy with one final, commanding gesture.
Thus, just like in the movies, time is always running out for the light side, who must find the means to strike quickly and for maximum damage. The light side player wins by destroying three dark side objectives, cards that represent its missions and strategies, but doing so requires mustering sufficient firepower to get past Imperial defenses.
Each battle in Star Wars: The Card Game allows attackers and defenders to coordinate units, including characters, creatures, starfighters, and vehicles like Imperial walkers, to disrupt their opponent’s strategies by launching surgical strikes or beginning massive battles. First, the attacker targets an enemy objective and commits units to the assault. Then, the defending player assigns and commits units to the defense. As the two strike teams collide, players vie for the upper hand in the game’s dramatic new “edge battle.”
In an edge battle, players vie for initiative by secretly bidding cards from their hand facedown, one at a time, beginning with the active player. Once both players have passed or run out of cards to bid, they compare the number of Force icons on the cards they’ve bid, the cards they bid are discarded, and the winner gains the edge, earning the right to strike first.
The edge battles of Star Wars: The Card Game are high-stakes gambles that ensure that no cards in a player’s hand are ever without value. However, they can also be filled with dramatic twists and turns. Fate cards can trigger abilities when bid during edge battles that can wound units or damage objectives, and skillful players can even draw out their opponents’ most valuable cards in cunning feints. Each edge battle allows players to decide their own destinies, and each gives players a meaningful reason to consider whether to play a card or save it for a future edge battle.

One of the light side’s most powerful and versatile warriors, Luke Skywalker’s strength with the Force is represented by his three Force icons.
With its layered resourcing, tactical combat, and exciting edge battles, Star Wars: The Card Game immerses players in fast-paced confrontations set during the timeline of the original trilogy. You can read more about the game’s mechanics on its description page.
The Future You See
Star Wars: The Card Game pursues an innovative new style of set-focused deck-building. Each player chooses an affiliation card and a group of ten or more objective sets, each of which includes six cards: one objective and five corresponding cards that go into a player’s command deck. The compositions of players’ command decks are automatically determined by the objectives they choose. Just separate your objectives from your command deck, shuffle both, and you’re ready to play! This brand new approach makes deck-building more accessible to new players, as they have only to select ten objective sets and combine them rather than assemble an entire deck, individual card by individual card.
This model also presents a compelling new deck-building challenge for veteran card players. Traditionally, veteran players approach customizable card games by evaluating the worth of every individual card in a deck. Star Wars: The Card Game, however, explores exciting new design territory; players are faced with the task of evaluating groups of cards and building a deck by selecting among those groups. This new approach allows for intense strategic customization, while still maintaining core thematic elements from the Star Wars saga.
Faster deck-building and truly awesome legends – that’s the idea behind the new way to construct your decks in Star Wars: The Card Game!
Ally with the Force
The Force is a powerful ally, and both light side and dark side players will seek to draw from its strength as they engage in the battles of Star Wars: The Card Game, coming in the fourth quarter of 2012!